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Listen Up: Models and Photographers Teach You How to Take Awesome Profile Pics

Listen Up: Models and Photographers Teach You How to Take Awesome Profile Pics

Get ready to “like” this story. After all, you may never take a bad Facebook profile pic again.

Having a great profile pic is just about as important as 1) watching well-versed (or not so well-versed) political debates and 2) for me, scoring some cute skirts. And heels. Can’t forget the heels.

I like to think of my profile pic as finally being able undo those awkward grade school pics I had no control over (you know . . . crooked bangs with teeth to match *eye roll*). Finally, I can strike a pose that says, “Damn girl, you are looking–as my grandmother would say–spiffy.” Well, at least I like to think so. However, I admit to being a total cam ham and a perfectionist. Translation: I spend WAY too much time pondering which one of the 25 (or 57) pictures I’ll choose for my Facebook profile pic. And just when I think I’ve found the one, yup, you guessed it. . .there are more bags under my eyes than in a Vera Bradley store.

Sigh. There MUST be an easier way to just get my smile on, post that sucker on Facebook and be done with it. Right?


I reached out to some professional photographers as well as the stunning Shelley Goodstein, Ford model and author of “Face This: Real Advice from Real Models, Photographers and Makeup Artists on How to Become Picture-Perfect” Here are their tips for making sure all your profile pics are 100 percent glam, 100 percent of the time.

Have Yourself a Great Facebook Profile Photo

You’re Not Lindsay Lohan (Amen to That), So Stop Pretending to Be

You're Not Lindsay Lohan

Don’t be like Corey Hart (I offer no apologies for the ‘80s song reference) and wear your sunglasses at night . . . or in your Facebook profile pic. Tommy Mendes, testing photographer for modeling agencies such as Ford, Next and Elite (who’s recently covered backstage fashion shows with the likes of Naomi Campbell and former Victoria’s Secret angel Karolina Kurkova), advises, “DO NOT wear sunglasses unless you’re well-recognized, like Taylor Swift or Madonna.”

Chances are you’re not that famous (yet), so resist the urge to get all incognito on your wannabe celebrity self, no matter how great you look in your wine-colored cocktail dress.

The look can also send the wrong message (listen up, ladies looking for love). Mendes warns that it can be “a cue to single guys that you may be hiding something.”

Great Eyes and Face in a Flash (and Even Without a Flash)

Olivia Wilde

The eyes have it. Olivia Wilde.

It’s been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul and a great way to get more FB friends. (I made that last part up). So show ‘em off in your profile pic, but go easy in the makeup department. Goodstein told me, “Avoid glittery eye shadow because it will sparkle unnaturally when the flash hits. Plus, the glitter will fall on other places of your face.”

We at TBF think you sparkle just by being your wonderful, beautiful self and totally agree with Goodstein’s sparkle-less pic suggestion. To get that just-right glimmer, she suggests heading outdoors, positioning yourself so your eyes catch the sunlight in what she calls that “magic spot” (when it’s just a little hard to keep your eyes wide open).

Debi Gomez of Life’s Images Photography adds, “Light can be your friend or your frenemy. If you have a large window, sit so that it is in front of you and slightly to the side of you.” When it comes to outdoor shots, she, like Goodstein, says to stay out of direct sunlight. Gomez mentioned that when the sun’s directly overhead, it can create the appearance of dark under-eye circles (yucko).

The Skinny on Skin

Clean and Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets

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“No one wants to look like their face is part of an oil slick, so for your best pictures, don’t forget powder,” says Goodstein. “Even if your skin isn’t oily, it can appear that way, especially with a flash.” She suggests using a translucent powder and mattifying products like OC8 or blotting paper. She’s our kind of gal; we totally dig the on-the-go convenience of oil blotters.

Also, don’t forget to drink up. No, wine does not count : ) Lisa M. Zunzanyika of Simply Zee Imagery is a big believer in good ol’ H2O. “Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate,” she says. “Hydration and rest help make your skin and eyes look their best.”

Be Yourself


A Facebook profile pic “don’t.”

Getting your glam on is one thing. But when it comes to posting your FB profile pic, don’t overdo it. “Your profile picture should actually look like you,” says Zunzanyika. “Avoid dramatic makeovers that render you unrecognizable.”

I must add my two cents: This “unrecognizable” concept should also include pets. Sure, your cat, bird or iguana Louie is adorable, but I want to see YOU, not a closeup of cutie-patootie-Louie. You WITH your pet is okay, but pass up one that shows ONLY your furry friend.

As Mendes confidently reassured me, “You are the director of your own show.” I loved that! Point is, be yourself. “We weren’t designed to pose in front of a camera,” he says. “And we certainly don’t walk around all day with a huge smile.” So he recommends doing what comes naturally. Smile if you want, stay neutral if you prefer, but always stay in your comfort zone.

Just be careful of getting overzealous in the molar department. “Don’t use a profile photo with a huge smile showing every tooth,” says Goodstein. “That will expose your gums and turn your eyes into slits.

Show Some Personality

Alicia Silverstone

Alicia Silverstone poses with personality.

Love to read? Work out? Incorporate other elements that say “you” as long as they still manage to focus on, yup, you guessed it: YOU. As Mendes says, “if you’re a Zen-like person, find the willow tree at a lake. If you love to cook, get to the farmers’ market and get some colorful veggies in the shot.”

Just keep it minimal.

I mean, I love heels, cobalt blue (and variations of the shade), enjoy the outdoors and used to play the cello a bazillion years ago. But no way will you find a FB profile pic of me straddling a cello, wearing blue platform booties, a can of bug spray in one hand, compass in the other. Overkill.

Think Small, Get High

Shelley Goodstein

Shelley Goodstein, Ford model and author, in flattering upward head-tilt pic.

Remember, your Facebook pic is small. Add to that the fact that many people are checking status updates from their phones, and you go from small to teeny-tiny. To get an ideal pic, Debi Gomez (fan of window light) suggests head and shoulder shots. “They’ll be more flattering than full-body ones AND allow all your friends—and would-be friends—to actually SEE you,” she says.

She warns not to face squarely into the camera (I hear where she’s coming from; whenever I do this, I feel like my face is a mile wide). Instead, Gomez advises turning shoulders “about 45 degrees from the camera, then turning your head slightly back towards camera.”

She also suggests positioning the camera higher than eye level so you have to tilt your head upward slightly as you look into the lens. “You do not want to tilt your head comically far backward, just a slight tilt upward,” she says. This elongates the face for a more flattering look.

I’m with her on this one. I don’t care who you are, up-the-nostril nose hair shots ain’t sexy on anyone.

Peek-a-Boo, I Don’t See You

Peek-a-Boo, I Don’t See You

This is your face. This is your cell phone blocking your face. Yeah, I’m ripping off that “brain on drugs” egg-in-frying-pan campaign from the late ‘80s to beg you: Don’t go there. Pleeeeaaase. Cameras in your Facebook profile pic are kinda cute if you’re under 18. Otherwise, it’s hokey.

“Position yourself in front of a mirror, then subtly move your head and shoulders to learn what’s best for you,” explains Zunzanyika. “Rehearsing allows you to learn your angles, but also helps to take natural photographs.”

FYI, chances are you’ll like your left side better. A recent article talks up a study suggesting there really is such a thing as a good side. So cue up Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” (“to the left, to the left”) and rehearse away.

Picture-Perfect Examples
So, what do some great profile pics look like? I instantly thought of a couple of my FB friends and wanted to share.

Hey, Romeo (*Eyelashes Batting*)

Francine T.

Francine T., in her flattering “eat your heart out” FB profile pic.

So here’s my FB friend Francine T., a New Jersey resident who works in the corporate communications department of a global nonprofit organization. I think her pic is awesome because it does all the right things in the ways of lighting, angles and framing AND shows a fun, come-hither personality.

Francine explains that the picture was taken the day before her birthday in February, when she went out with her sisters and some friends. Because it was close to Valentine’s Day, people were giving out red carnations. “We started taking random photos with the flower and had a little fun with it,” she told me. “I loved the way the photo came out; it looks playful and the angle is a little mysterious. The fact that I had recently gone through a breakup may have influenced my choice to use it as a profile photo as well, in case someone came across it. I think it says, ‘Eat your heart out.’”

Sexy & Sophisticated

Jenna D.

Jenna D., striking a pose that blends sexy with sophisticated

Meet another FB friend of mine, Jenna D. She’s an assistant account executive at an NYC ad agency who still finds time to shake it to the beat as a Zumba group fitness instructor. She loves her profile pic for its sentimental AND sexy factors.

It was snapped at a restaurant after her friend’s wake, so she describes the pic as a bittersweet moment where “We were all able to be together to celebrate her life.” Plus, “I think my hair looks nice and the pic is a good combination of sexy and sophisticated, which I think all women should be.”
We love her black blazer, hair-complementing peach tank and the well-framed shot. It also meshes with Goodstein’s advice to “wear clothes that fit” and “don’t be afraid to let a little skin show.”

These ladies have got it going on, plus they stick to another helpful tip from Zunzanyika: “Stay away from busy clothing when choosing your wardrobe for your shot. Patterned clothing, especially if the colors are vibrant, draws attention away from your face,” she says, adding a final thought: “Polka dots, zigzag and stripes. . .oh, my.”

What are some of your tips for taking great FB profile pics?

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Kelly Taylor
From Snobby Bitch to Sexy Babe—Style Icon: Kelly Taylor
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Monday 28th of January 2013

So glad my profile picture is either a generic icon representing something about my personality or the silhouette icon on Disqus. Probably the best thing to happen to public commentary since the invention of the megaphone. Not looking for love OR friends in any of these places -- Twit Book, Form Square, Tumble-Rumble or whatever these umptillion sites are (with new ones "starting up" every day, it seems). On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog -- why would I or anyone else for that matter want to expose myself as an ugly pit bull, a wrinkled Shar Pei, or the worse piece of Shih Tzu no one should have the misfortune to see?


Monday 28th of January 2013

So glad I don't even bother with a photo for any of my profiles. All I have right now is a blog -- no FB, Twitter, Form Square or whatever else is out there (and new sites pop up every day). I just use either an icon or comment anonymously on Disqus with the silhouette logo. Not looking for love or friends in any of these places. On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog -- and I'd prefer to keep it that way. Woof.

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